Air Uke Enthusiasts Descend on Boston for Quiet Riot | HumorOutcasts

Air Uke Enthusiasts Descend on Boston for Quiet Riot

August 1, 2018

BOSTON.  Trey Gooding likes to travel light, a style that he says saves him time rushing between gigs.  “If I can’t carry all my luggage on, sometimes things get lost and anyway I have to stand at the baggage claim, which can take forever,” he says.

“I wanna go back, back, back to my little grass shack . . .”


So last year Gooding, a top-flite air guitarist, switched to air ukelele, the fastest growing segment of the air musical instrument market.  “It’s lighter, and it fits in the overhead compartment with my backpack,” Gooding says.  “I wouldn’t want my ‘axe’ to get damaged in the cargo hold because of air pressure or somebody’s suitcase fell on it.”

Arthur Godfrey


Long derided as a novelty instrument suitable only for Hawaiians or Arthur Godfrey wanna-be’s, the “uke” as aficionados of the undersize stringed instrument refer to it colloquially, has undergone a resurgence of sorts in recent years, fueled by the jazz stylings of Bill Tapia, a grandmaster who lived to 103 and whose repertoire ranged from Duke Ellington to traditional hula songs.  At the younger end of the spectrum, Jake Shimabukuro wows the YouTube generation with lightning-fast fingering and chord changes that have earned him the title “The Jimmy Page of the Ukelele.”

Bill Tapia:  Seriously–you’ve got to hear this guy.


Air uke practitioners say their chosen instrument allows them more freedom than air guitarists, whose tastes run towards heavy metal “shredder” music.  “It’s not just the air guitar, it’s the air amps, which are huge,” says Mike Growell, a former “hair-band” lead guitarist who picked up the air ukelele when he started losing his hearing.  “If you’re a success you can afford air roadies, but if not you have to do the heavy lifting yourself, which can give you an air hernia.”

Jake Shimabukuro


Growell will be one of the headliners at this morning’s opening session of the National Air Ukelele Championships at the Hynes Convention Center, but he says he plans to be in bed early tonight and skip the late-night jam sessions where air uke players test their skills in “cutting contests” against each other.  “I’m too old for that,” he says.  “I’m going to bed early, with an air groupie.”

Con Chapman

I'm a Boston-area writer, author of two novels (most recently "Making Partner"), a baseball book about the Red Sox and the Yankees ("The Year of the Gerbil"), ten published plays and 45 books of humor available in print and Kindle formats on My latest book "Scooter & Skipper Blow Things Up!" was released by HumorOutcasts Press last year. My humor has appeared in The Atlantic, The Christian Science Monitor, The Boston Globe and Barron's, and I am working on a biography of Johnny Hodges, Duke Ellington's long-time alto sax player for Oxford University Press .

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook - Google Plus - YouTube

Share this Post:

User Login

New Release
How to Write and Share Humor
By Donna Cavanagh Published by HumorOutcasts Press

Available in Paperback and Kindle

New Release
Lite Whines and Laughter: Mild Rants and Musings on the Mundane
By Lee Gaitan and HumorOutcasts Press

Available in Paperback and Kindle

New Release
It Comes From Within: Living with Bipolar Illness
By Michael Solomon. and Shorehouse Books

Available in Paperback and Kindle